Some experts believe that the primary goal of a business should be to maximize profits – would you agree? if not, what would you say should be the paramount goal of any business enterprise?
Personally I feel businesses should focus just on profit, but our perception of profit needs to evolve a bit. Profit is not only about your bi-monthly or quarterly balance sheet. Profit is about how your organization is being enriched, in terms of what kind of talent is seeping into it, the development of human beings, the growth of human infrastructure within the organization, how many people’s lives you are touching – not through charity, but through business.
The essence of modern business is expansion. Whether you manufacture a safety pin or a computer or a spacecraft, the important thing is you want to make sure all 7.2 billion people use your safety pin. Business must be profit-oriented, but our idea of profit must evolve. Otherwise, it is like saying, “We want to play cricket, but the score is not important; style is important.” We will enjoy the style only if the score is good, not otherwise.
Today, we have chosen the market economy as our way of life. Market means profit. Without profit, you should not talk about a market place. In a market economy, there is no room for the word “greed” in your vocabulary. Only if you are a communist, you can talk about greed. Otherwise in a market economy, do not talk about greed – talk about better laws. If someone is making a billion dollars per day, you can tax him nine hundred million. But let him have enough to give him incentive to go on; you should not take away his spirit.
How would you define Corporate Social Responsibility?
Corporate Social Responsibility need not be done as service; corporations can see this as a long-term investment. Business itself should be socially responsible. It is not necessary to see it as giving back to the community or doing service to underprivileged people. Only if people are healthy and well, they will buy what you sell. By making someone prosperous, you are creating a market and human resources!
Ultimately, whatever business you are doing, your goal is to reach it to everyone. If you see this as a long-term project, it is definitely a part of your business. It is not a service-oriented activity. There is no need to talk about service or greed. Everyone can live with dignity.
There is a proverb in the African lore that says when the lion feeds, everyone gets to eat. A lion means that which is immensely capable. Instead of talking about greed, service, and corporate social responsibility, laws should create situations in such a way that if you profit, everyone else should also live well. If the government has the necessary sense, the right kind of policies can be brought in, where businesses can grow unbridled and naturally benefit the rest of society.
It is important to create a more inclusive kind of economy, which will also make the business very strong. I want people to see that creating schools, healthcare, and infrastructure for wellbeing is not service, but a business opportunity. In any deal, only if both parties benefit, it will go on for a long time. In any transaction in life – market or marriage, only if both parties benefit, there is a marriage. If only one partner benefits, it will lead to divorce.
If you were to recommend 3 qualities that Corporate Companies should try to imbibe within their operational structure that would give them an edge as a responsible, ethical yet profitable organization – what would these 3 qualities be?
To be successful, it is most important that you have insight. Insight means you see something that others fail to see. Leadership means essentially that you are sitting on a perch. If you are sitting on a perch but you do not see any better than others, then you will become an object of ridicule. Once you sit on a perch, you must be able to see better than others.
Then, if people have to stand by you, you need inspiration. Unless people stand by you, you cannot create anything. If you just have a lot of insight and you cannot inspire people, then you will walk alone and nothing will happen. For any organization or leader, your ability to inspire people is most important and you cannot inspire people unless you yourself are truly inspired towards what you want to create. Unless a leader displays an infectious level of inspiration, sloth and inertia will establish themselves.
The next important aspect is integrity because where there is no integrity, there will be no trust. Where there is no trust, working with people will be torturous and in that space, the necessary atmosphere needed for success cannot exist. So, these three qualities are key – insight, inspiration, and integrity.
What are the qualities of an exceptional CEO?
Leadership does not mean an opportunity to take people where you want to go – that is tyranny, not leadership. Leadership essentially means that you are capable of creating the necessary atmosphere where people can go beyond the limitations that they have set for themselves. The very fundamentals of leadership are that you aspire to achieve certain things and if it does not happen, you do not become a bundle of frustrations. You only see how to make it happen. These qualities are most essential for leadership. If you have your own issues, concerns, tensions, and fears, you never function to your full capacity.
Leadership is not dominance; it is a certain sacrifice. Leadership is not a question of ruling somebody; it is a question of making someone’s life. Any leader who does not feel a certain sense of oneness and inclusiveness with the people around him cannot be a genuine leader. He can only manipulate situations to make them a little better or worse. Leaders must handle their business and the economics of the world as an inclusive process.
With businesses now facing multiple risk factors including climate change, water scarcity, rising inequalities, global socio-political changes – what measures can they adopt to be truly sustainable?
Businesses can expand either through conquering or inclusion. Conquering is a violent way, inclusion is a humane and sustainable way. Making business humane is not a charity or a luxury, but a necessity. It is a necessity dictated not just by the ecological situation of the planet, but also by the growing consumer preferences in favor of gentler, greener business processes.
There was a time when businesses could enter a country or a market with their gun-power. There was a time when people set up large production facilities with complete disregard for the local culture and ecology. However, today in India and the world over, people are making it increasingly clear that such things cannot be done anymore. Gone are the days when you could enter a market with just the power of your capital.
Today’s consumer is growing increasingly conscious of the social and ecological impacts of various products which in turn take clear expressions in the form of their preferences. Without winning the goodwill and support of local communities, businesses can no longer hope to operate in a sustained manner.
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